Hosting interns from Manchester Uni

PARADISEC has been happy to host three student interns from University of Manchester, from February to April, 2024. The 20 day internship is part of University of Manchester’s Master of Arts programs, which we became aware of thanks to an email from University of Manchester in late 2023. Two of the students are completing the MA in Digital Media, Culture and Society, and one is in the MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies.

I initially met with the students, gave them an introduction to PARADISEC and the range of work we do, and heard from them about their courses. After this, I wrote up a ‘position description and objectives’ brief, and identified work tasks that I assessed would be both practical and educational for the students, whilst also being productive and helpful for PARADISEC. I was glad to be guided by the detailed curricula material that my colleague Julia Miller has developed whilst hosting student interns in recent years. These curricula provided a foundation, helping me to ensure I was covering all of the key aspects of PARADISEC’s work, and additionally offered excellent articles that I assigned for theoretical background readings.

The students completed exercises covering:

  • enriching the metadata of a number of collections, by filling in existing gaps in our key metadata fields like date, country, language and map data;
  • linking audio recording files with text materials, such as transcripts or notes, thus improving accessibility, findability & interoperability of both the audio and the text records. This task also provided an introduction to ELAN;
  • listening to a selection of our Toksave podcast episodes, and choosing one to write a brief report on, for discussion during our fortnightly zoom meeting;
  • ‘attending’ (remotely & asynchronously, via zoom recording) one of PARADISEC’s fortnightly staff meetings, to get an overview of the scope of everyday operations, and to ‘meet’ the rest of the PARADISEC staff team. (Unfortunately, the time difference meant that PARADISEC’s normal workday times in Australia are precisely throughout the middle of the night in the UK, where the students are, so attending the meeting in real-time was not feasible);
  • extracting metadata from audio and text sources and using the LaMeta tool to populate it into a format able to be imported to PARADISEC’s catalog;
  • correcting OCR of handwritten notes using the Transkribus tool, to help build a corpus to create a model to automatically transcribe a large quantity of texts from one specific collection.

Upon completion of the placement, the students provided detailed comments in the form of a 1-page summary report. These reports offer extremely useful feedback for me/PARADISEC, to continue to improve the quality of the educational experience we can offer to students in this kind of internship setting. Overall, the students shared that the internship exposed them to a new field (digital archiving of linguistic and cultural data) that they had not previously had much contact with, along with the ‘tools of the trade’ of that field, also unfamiliar to them, and importantly, that they could recognize as transferable skills for their future studies and work – software like LaMeta, ELAN and Transkribus, and skills of engaging forensically with data and metadata. Xinyao Su says that she “gained confidence in using data management tools and can [now] navigate them more efficiently”. Xinyue Su commented that, having struggled with inaccurate OCR in the past, working with the Trankribus tool was inspiring for her to “think about [her] professional studies from a more hands-on perspective.” And Yixian Li mentions how the tasks made her much more aware of the importance of accurate and complete metadata to the usefulness of the archive data.

The students reported that the Toksave podcast exercise, along with the assigned readings, opened their eyes to the broader importance of digital archives, for strengthening community members’ connections with their linguistic and cultural heritage. As Yixian Li put it, “the podcasts were fascinating as they bridged the technical elements of archiving with personal narratives and historical background, revitalising stored content in a novel manner.” Personally, I found our group discussion arising from the podcast exercise inspiring, as I could perceive the students’ burgeoning awareness of the archive’s current and future significance.

In the ‘areas for improvement’ column, the students and I were all agreed that the 100% online format of the internship provided unique challenges. It was more difficult to foster a sense of collegiality, and specifically for the students to feel connected to the rest of the PARADISEC working team. If we have more 100% online internships in the future, I would ensure to try to arrange (even if the timezones make it tricky) some virtual social interaction, so the students get a more personalized experience with PARADISEC team members.

Overall, it has been a valuable and productive experience for myself, as supervisor, and for the three student interns. Thanks to the University of Manchester for providing the opportunity, and to Xinyue Su, Xinyao Su, and Yixian Li for their professional level of engagement in this internship with PARADISEC!

Here at Endangered Languages and Cultures, we fully welcome your opinion, questions and comments on any post, and all posts will have an active comments form. However if you have never commented before, your comment may take some time before it is approved. Subsequent comments from you should appear immediately.

We will not edit any comments unless asked to, or unless there have been html coding errors, broken links, or formatting errors. We still reserve the right to censor any comment that the administrators deem to be unnecessarily derogatory or offensive, libellous or unhelpful, and we have an active spam filter that may reject your comment if it contains too many links or otherwise fits the description of spam. If this happens erroneously, email the author of the post and let them know. And note that given the huge amount of spam that all WordPress blogs receive on a daily basis (hundreds) it is not possible to sift through them all and find the ham.

In addition to the above, we ask that you please observe the Gricean maxims:

*Be relevant: That is, stay reasonably on topic.

*Be truthful: This goes without saying; don’t give us any nonsense.

*Be concise: Say as much as you need to without being unnecessarily long-winded.

*Be perspicuous: This last one needs no explanation.

We permit comments and trackbacks on our articles. Anyone may comment. Comments are subject to moderation, filtering, spell checking, editing, and removal without cause or justification.

All comments are reviewed by comment spamming software and by the site administrators and may be removed without cause at any time. All information provided is volunteered by you. Any website address provided in the URL will be linked to from your name, if you wish to include such information. We do not collect and save information provided when commenting such as email address and will not use this information except where indicated. This site and its representatives will not be held responsible for errors in any comment submissions.

Again, we repeat: We reserve all rights of refusal and deletion of any and all comments and trackbacks.

Leave a Comment